Free schools? More like ‘Me First’ schools

Toby Young regularly gets his knickers in a twist over any criticism of his cherished free schools. Indeed, anyone who doesn’t share the Honourable Tobes’s view on free schools is a ‘loony left-winger’. Of course he would deny that  his support for free schools is ideological. Ideology is what those horrid left-wingers have, not Tobes.

Here he lambasts an Institute of Education report that Swedish free schools have created segregation within the system, what Ed Balls has described as “educational apartheid”,

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a richer source of politically correct gobbledygook. Among its many delights it contains a passage on ‘transpeople’, defined as people who’ve undergone ‘gender reassignment surgery’. You wouldn’t have thought there’d be many of them at the Institute, but that hasn’t stopped the ‘Gender Equalities Officer’ from coming up with a series of pledges designed to protect their rights. She promises to ensure that ‘our equal opportunities policies… do not discriminate against transpeople — especially in terms of dignity at work’ and that ‘trans perspectives are included in equality impact assessment processes’.

Marvellous isn’t it? A whole policy devised just in case a post-op transsexual ever enrols at the Institute. The ‘Equalities Officer’ (fresh from her last berth on a Soviet nuclear sub) promises to include the policy as ‘part of the mandatory equality training’.

You know something? I can’t take this tripe seriously. Young is what Americans would call a ‘blowhard’ and what Scousers would refer to as a ‘gobshite’. All he thinks he needs to do is accuse the IoE of “political correctness” and make a desperate attempt to link the Institute with Soviet-era political officers and the job is done.  Weak.

But this is even weirder,

If this repository of Left-wing claptrap is going to be allowed to dictate the Government’s education policy then God help us all.

“Left wing claptrap”? Blimey, you’re on fire today! By the way, the IoE is an internationally renown institution and certainly has a better track record on educational matters than pushy parents like you, Tobes. Which reminds me, have you ever taught in a school? Do you have a PGCE? No, you don’t. Just because you’re a parent, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are some sort of expert on formative education.

So how will free schools formulate their admissions policy? Presumably admissions will be the responsibility of the parents who run the school. Young’s borough,  Ealing,  has the highest concentration of private and independent schools in London. Places for state schools are limited and hard fought over. Instead of building new state schools, the coalition has decided to create a system that will eventually exclude those who do not meet the whimsical admissions criteria of the free schools. So where will those pupils go? Oddly enough, the Honourable Tobes hasn’t got an answer for that. Furthermore, he doesn’t care.

I find it revealing that Young ignored some of the more important points contained in the report. For instance, the report’s author, Suzanne Wiborg, discovered

that while free schools improved pupils’ results at the age of 15 or 16, there was no difference in results between free school pupils and children at other schools by the equivalent of A-level.

She says,

“The advantage that children schooled in areas with free schools have by the age of 16 is not translated into greater achievements later in life as they score no better in the final exams at age 18 and 19. They are no more likely to participate in higher education,”

Wiborg also found that,

local authorities had to pay for costly surplus school places and that the planning which went into allocating student places had become complex and expensive.

So who says this won’t lead to, as Balls puts it, educational apartheid? But we should recognize where all of this comes from: school league tables. Pub darts teams belong in leagues, not schools (well, maybe their sports teams do).  One can point to a school and say it fails because of factors  X, Y and Z. But whose fault is it that a school ‘fails’? Is it the pupils? The teachers? The governors? The LEA? This form of manufactured competition is not only divisive, it is corrosive and we can see its effects on those schools that at the bottom of the league tables. We also need to remind ourselves who introduced the idea of the school league tables in the first place. It was the last Tory government under John Major, who also introduced targets and benchmarks. The Honourable Gobshite seems to have ignored that important point too. Quelle surprise!

I noticed this in The Morning Star (I can see Tobes preparing to fulminate already).

But coalition cracks appeared when Lib Dem MP David Ward declared that Mr Gove’s Bill was “leading to what could be a nasty accident.”

He warned it would lead to “a fragmentation and a weakening of the state school system.”

And he feared that the British National Party would have a group of parents applying to set up a “free school” within a year.

Exactly, so who is going to stop BNP and other fascist-minded parents from setting up a free school? Not you, Tobes.  And certainly not Michael Gove.

What about disabled children? I can some of these schools refusing admission simply on the grounds of not having an access ramp outside… or citing the lack of an access ramp as a cover for something else.

Freedom is a state of mind; governments can’t give you freedom, only you can do that for yourself. Free schools are for those who don’t want their child to associate with those oiks from the estate over the road.


Filed under Education, Government & politics

2 responses to “Free schools? More like ‘Me First’ schools

  1. Pingback: Free schools? More like ‘Me First’ schools | Γονείς σε Δράση

  2. Pingback: Who’s behind the West London Free School? | Guy Debord's Cat

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